Brain with bandages and tape holding it together

The Emotional Effects of a Flare

Arrggghhh. The dreaded word. Flare. There, I said it. Hard to describe, but I know it like I know my own name. We are intimately connected, my flares and I. I know the aches in my ankles and I know the throbbing in my lower back. All of it. I know it. I fight it with heat and ice and I do my best to balance rest and movement, praying that it will pass. I try desperately to hold my life together with NSAID’s and steroids acting as safety pins and duct tape.

All of these things hold my bodytogether during a flare, but what about my mind or my heart? What do we do to protect and care for these during a flare? Even though I’ve never researched the “science” behind it, I really believe that when our body is flaring, our emotions go right along for the ride as well. It is my sincerest belief that our physical flares often spark emotional ones.

PsA flares affect emotional health and well-being

What does the emotional part of a flare look like? What's going on in our hearts while the rest of our body is attacking itself?

Self-esteem

Marking things off my to-do list makes me feel amazing! For better or for worse, when I accomplish the tasks I set out to do, it does wonders for my self-esteem. When I am having a flare, little to nothing gets accomplished. Projects are left incomplete and before too long, my self-worth starts to drop as well. Sure, it might be a personal flaw, but all of these seem so much more prominent during a flare.

Anxiety and depression

If you are already prone to anxiety or depression, you better hold on tight because when you have a flare, you will be in for a bumpy ride. I’m already tired. Pretty much every bone in my body aches, leaving me on the couch, hiding in my pain.

While my ability to move around and get fresh air plummets, my anxiety and depression soars. My mind plays tricks on me, swirling around with pointless questions. Will this last forever? What am I missing out on? What kind of damage am I doing to my children?

Anger and lashing out

Most obviously a result of the pain, during a flare I am quick to temper and harsh with my words. The often overlooked emotional part of a flare makes me more sensitive to comments made by my family (especially regarding the unkempt state of the house). My nerves bristle at the mention of the growing pile of dirty clothes. Responses fly out of my mouth unchecked by my internal filters. Angry responses lead to overwhelming guilt which only perpetuates the cycle.

Emotional sensitivity

Did you just roll your eyes at me? No, I saw it. I know you did.

Do I note a condescending tone in your voice? Yep. I heard it.

Why do you have to be all Judgy McJudgy Pants all the time? I can’t help it, I don’t feel well. No, of course I’m not making it up.

These phrases, and many more like it, tell us that during a flare, perhaps we are a bit, how we say... touchy? Being overly sensitive to seemingly innocent comments is a hallmark for an emotional flare. Remember, the world is not out to get you. Check your responses, or better yet, hobble yourself away from conversations and social media posts if you suspect that you are a bit emotionally sensitive during a flare.

So while you are busily fighting the physical effects of your latest flare, keep in mind that we also need to remember to care for the emotional effects of a flaring body as well.

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